There are a lot of movies that will not bore you when you watch them more than once. But there are only a few movies that will fascinate you every time you watch it. Michael Madana Kamarajan is one such masterpiece, and that’s why it’s in the 50 best Tamil movies to watch before you die. Michael Madana Kamarajan
Michael Madana Kamarajan
In simplistic terms, Michael Madana Kamarajan is another “estranged siblings coming back together” movie, but the complexity is raised a bit when they are quadruplets. It gets crazy if all of these siblings are identical. And that’s what Kamal Hassan, Singeetham Srinivasa Rao, Kader Kashmiri and Crazy Mohan created to delight us. The story is about quadruplets who were separated at birth by their evil uncle. Each one is raised in different households – Michael grows as a criminal as he raised by the guy who was supposed to kill all the children. Madan accidentally ends up in his own father’s house and raised as a step-son. Kameshwaran is raised in a Brahmin household as a cook and Raju ends up at an orphanage and becomes a firefighter.
The chaos ensues when his brother kills Madan’s father Venugopal, and it is staged as an accident. Madan comes back from London to take the reigns of the family but receives a call that his father wasn’t killed in an accident. He starts to investigate his father’s death and accidentally meets Raju during an altercation. They decide to switch roles while Kameshwaran and Michael enter the fray with different agenda, it becomes crazy.
I would leave it to you (if you haven’t watched it) to enjoy the chaos on screen. The movie was directed by Singeetham Srinivasa Rao and produced by Panju Arunachalam for P.A Arts. Kamal Hassan wrote the screenplay and Crazy Mohan penned the dialogues. The movie was shot by BC Gowrishankar and edited by Vasu. Ilaiyaraaja scored the music for the film.
Why is it special?
- Michael Madana Kamarajan is one of the finest screenplays that Tamil cinema has ever seen. Managing four different characters and the supporting characters for each of them is no mean fete. The importance of each character of the movie doesn’t diminish anywhere. The characters are like the blocks in a Jenga game and Kamal places removes and puts them at the right moments to make a cohesive piece of brilliance.
- The acting – where to start? Should I discuss the variations shown by Kamal in those characters? Should I talk about the brilliant supporting cast of Nagesh, Delhi Ganesh, Manorama or SN Lakshmi who steal the show whenever they are on screen (even when Kamal is around)? Should I elaborate how the leading ladies (Khushboo, Urvashi and Roopini) match the prowess of Kamal in every scene (especially Urvashi)? Even the smallest roles make the biggest impact – Praveen Kumar (as Bheem), Ponnambalam (one of his earliest roles), Venniraadai Murthy and Santhanabharathi shine in their roles.
- Crazy Mohan’s dialogues are still fresh even after 20 years. Contextual dialogues that match the cultural aspects of each character is so brilliant. This point also made it tougher for Michael Madana Kamarajan to be remade in other languages.
- Ilaiyaraaja came up with a mixtape album that ruled the dance floors of those days. The title song had the entire prelude to the story laid out for the audience. It was an interesting technique to make the audience hooked up to the story even before the movie started. When you savour the rock and roll routine, you are presented with a beautiful Carnatic based Palakkad accent melody. When you try to be content with those songs, you are served with the sensuous Siva Raathiri, and then you are hit by “Per Vachalum Vaikama Ponalum”. In fact, two other beautiful songs didn’t make the final cut.
- There is a reason why Kamal collaborated with Singeetham Srinivasa Rao more often than others. The way he has handled a complicated screenplay shows the expertise of the director.
Why is it on the list?
- Michael Madana Kamarajan is once in a lifetime movie. A classic that will be revered until Tamil cinema is alive because of the sheer brilliance and complexity of the screenplay. In fact, it has become one of those go-to movies for people when they want to have a hearty laugh.
- It’s on the list for showing that the screenplay is the most important aspect of moviemaking. It’s not about the story that you are telling; It’s how you tell the story.
- For the vision of Kamal Hassan and the entire team that gave us a memorable movie in Michael Madana Kamarajan.
- Michael Madana Kamarajan was a consecutive collaboration between Singeetham Srinivasa Rao and Kamal Hassan. They had made Aboorva Sagathorargal before this movie.
- Crazy Mohan’s first film as a sole dialogue writer was Aboorva Sagaotharargal, but he became popular after Michael Madana Kamarajan. Earlier he had collaborated with K Balachander for Poikkal Kuthirai – the film adaptation of his stage play – Marriage Made in Saloon.
- In an interview to Bosskey, Delhi Ganesh explained that both himself and Kamal used proper Palakkad Malayalam accent and none could understand. Crazy Mohan asked them to tone down the language, and it was still not good enough. Finally, they came up with the current version – speaking Tamil in Palakkad accent.
- Michael Madana Kamarajan had a great run at the box office and completed Silver Jubilee.
- Most of the indoor sequences, especially Madan’s house were shot at Windsor Manor (now ITC Windsor) – it was also the Pushpak Hotel in Pesum Padam.
- Before the mayhemish climax, there are only two people who see Madan and Raju together (or any two Kamals together). One of them is the money-lender who sees Kameshwaran and Raju; the other one is Bheem who sees Raju and Madan together when they switch identities. Shalini (played by Khushboo) addresses Raju as Raju (although he has switched identity to Madan) during the car ride and conveniently switches to Madan after reaching Bangalore. Bheem doesn’t even bat his eye during this period. Having said that, Bheem is considered to have inferior IQ than others, and this glitch can be pardoned.
- Like many other Kamal movies, two songs didn’t make the final cut – Aadi Pattam Thedi Sennal (rendered by KS Chithra and Mano) and Mathapoovu Oru Penna (sung by KS Chithra). 
- The movie was dubbed in Telugu as Michael Madana Kamaraju.
- SN Lakshmi (Sennalkudi Narayana Lakshmi) started her career as a group dancer in Chandralekha. She was acting in supporting roles, but Nagesh recommended her for Server Sundaram. She was doing the role of his mother in the stage-play. Nagesh insisted on staging the drama only if she was available to act. And there was no looking back. She was working as a man in most of her plays and can do acrobatics and stunts. After a small gap, Kamal called her back to work in his movies, and she was part of every film produced by Kamal till Virumandi. Kamal would ask his assistants to give just the dialogues to SN Lakshmi as he was confident about her acting prowess.
- The actor in the title song is Singeetham Srinivasa Rao. The idea was to show as if a story-teller was narrating a story. Kamal wanted a director and film setup, but Singeetham and Ilaiyaraaja insisted on a rustic look with Bioscope. It worked as an excellent plot device, but the idea came about because they had to chop those scenes at the editing table.
- Crazy Mohan was so fond of the cleptomaniac grandma character that he created a similar character for his play – Chocolate Krishna.
- Praveen Kumar Sobti acted as Bheema in the legendary BR Chopra’s Mahabharata Series on Doordarshan. He was double Gold Medalist (Hammer Throw and Discus Throw) in 1966 and 1970 Asian Games. He represented India in 1968 and 1972 Olympics and an Arjuna Awardee. He started his film career as Gorilla in Raksha, a James Bond style spy thriller with Jeetendra in the lead. His character was inspired by Jaws in The Spy who loved me. He is currently in politics with the BJP.
- Gold Rush inspired the climax sequence of Michael Madana Kamarajan, but the original had only a couple of actors in the sequence. But Kamal and Singeetham Sreenivasa Rao managed to make an organised ruckus with 20 actors.
YouTube link to the movie
- Jack of all trades, master of fun – An interview with Crazy Mohan – Rediff.com
- Delhi Ganesh Interview with Bosskey – Heartist – Bosskey TV
- The Best of Tamil Cinema – Part 2 by G.Dhananjayan
- Michael Madana Kamarajan – Wikipedia
- Courage goaded her on – Malathi Rangarajan – The Hindu
- Open heart with RK – Singeetham Sreenivasa Rao
- Fun quotient quiet Intact – Malathi Rangarajan – The Hindu
- A panacea to end drug violence – MS Unnikrishnan – The Tribune